#9 dancing the airport tango ::

In Argentina I discovered the Tango. Its quickstep and seduction, the passionate exchange of push and pull and its confident footwork. Unfortunately, the only tango I did in Argentina was in the airport when I tried to leave.  Like a committed partner, the city didn’t want to let me go.

Argentina was an unplanned and surprising destination. I’d been in Chile to celebrate 07/07/07 and arctic temperatures in the south dashed my Patagonian dreams. I decided to exchange the cold Chilean weather and go where the tango is hot, and hopped a last minute Air Canada flight between Santiago and B.A.  (Why a Canadian airline flies this route is puzzling, but Star Alliance and Canadians both make good dance partners)
I envy the travelers who linger in the barrios of Buenos Aires to master the art of the dance. While I wish I could say I was one of them, I was seduced by the border of Uruguay just across the river, and hung up my tango shoes for a few days to explore a few days in Montevideo.
Montevideo and Buenos Aires are vibrant cities, and my quick step through both of them certainly did neither of them justice.
Because I’d unwisely packed in so much and had ventured so far from my point of origin, on my day of departure, I faced a Herculean itinerary to get myself home. Four connecting flights on three airlines through five airports in four countries in one day: MVD-AEP-EZE-SCL-ATL-DCA. My dance card was full, and I knew that a single mis-step would trip up my entire day.
I arrived at the Montevideo airport only to find that my first flight had already been cancelled, and the rest of the flights for the morning on my airline were full. Whether it was my quick step or mere look of desperation, I’ll never know but after a half hour of twists and turns, I had a boarding pass on a different airline.
While it isn’t typical tango to be tossed around between partners, this became the dance for the day.
The partner switch put me an hour later arriving into BA. I disembarked and picked up my tempo in hopes the that I wouldn’t miss the next flight onward to Santiago to catch my SCL-ATL-DCA legs. After catching a taxi between airports and arriving in just the nick of time, I was surprised to find a queue of at least 100 people and the news that my Air Canada connection was snowed in, in Mendoza.
Because impatience is one of my best travel virtues, I went to explore my options. Delta refused to change my mileage flight, or transfer me to their direct flight out of BA. Their helpful advice was that I’d have to stay another 10 days to get a seat if I missed my connection. While 10 days would have given me more time to learn the real Tango, I didn’t have it to spare.
Time passed and my options waned, so I decided to take the lead and call the steps. I marched up to the first class desk to re-coreograph my routing. (I didn’t have a first class ticket of course, but sometimes a look of desperation and persistance is worth its weight in upgrades). While carefully, and desperately, planning my next steps news arrived that the plane had been de-iced and was on its way. With a slim chance I was actually going to make it, I took my boarding card.
Wary of further changes, I waited until the very last minute to pass through immigration, and hurried to my gate. And of course, just as I arrived, my flight was delayed again. With no Air Canada gate agent, no one at all willing to help me, and no way back to the departure counter since I’d officially left Argentina, I began to wander the terminal to devise another plan.
I spotted United’s Carpet Lounge, and marched my way in despite having no United status or United ticket, remembering the rule that confidence is nearly as important in dancing as knowing the moves. I politely explained that they needed to help me, because they were an Air Canada partner, and the Canadian’s in Argentina were the one’s tripping up my day.
The older man sitting behind the counter kindly refused my request to actually enter the lounge, but surprised me with his willingness to help. “Leave your boarding pass and come back in 45 minutes” were his exact words. I had nothing to lose, besides my ability to buy Argentian Malbec while I waited (no boarding pass = no duty free).
One hour later, after another long song and dance, I was holding a hand-written boarding pass for a United flight direct to Washington Dulles. The flight not only completely bypassed Chile and Atlanta, and got me home six hours earlier, but I also scored a premium economy seat an a vegetarian meal.
Safe at home following two flights on two airlines that I didn’t have tickets to travel with. Who says travel isn’t as exciting as Tango?
The lesson is this:  No matter how much travel twirls you around, dips you when you aren’t expecting it, or steps on your toes, you’ll still put your shoes back on and dance again.
Where will you tango next?

One Response to #9 dancing the airport tango ::

  1. Hunter Risk says:

    My nex travel trip would be to florida. I waited and worked 4 month for flying to florida, so i hope my family truly enjoy this holiday. I would adore to have the chance for the same travel experience like yours. When i was young i believed i’d buy a home because i couldn´t remain around the same place for long time.

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